United Way seeks repeat of success|[02/22/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

Blake Teller, newly elected volunteer chairman for the United Way of West Central Mississippi, has a simple motto for success heading into the organization’s next campaign.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Teller said and laughed, following the group’s annual banquet Thursday at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The event marked the beginning of Teller’s term as head of the combined charity drive.

Teller’s prediction of repeating trends rather than change reflects the organization’s success in 2007. For the third year in a row, he said, the local group raised about $1.5 million. Teller, who served as campaign chair in 2005, noted that since he began volunteering with the United Way 14 years ago, the local chapter has ranked in the top 3 nationally each year in per-capita money raising.

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That money, collected through payroll deduction at participating employers, in direct gifts and company and corporate donations, is allocated, based on need, to agencies working in the area.

“Vicksburg has been extremely generous, and the local volunteers have continually been amazing,” said Teller, who is replacing Terri Ulmer as chairman. “And 2007 was no different. I just hope to keep moving the group in a successful direction.”

Barbara Tolliver, executive director here, said the $1.5 million collected in 2007 was about 95 percent of the goal. In 2006, the chapter raised nearly $1.6 million, surpassing a $1.5 million goal.

Tolliver said she was pleased with the 2007 campaign.

“We had fewer volunteers than the previous year, but were still able to raise nearly as much money,” Tolliver said. “That alone says a great deal about the people we had participating this year. They did a phenomenal job.”

Thursday’s event, she said, was to recognize the approximately 400 local United Way volunteers for their contributions.

During the banquet, two high school seniors were awarded Bruce Alan Ebersole Jr. Memorial Scholarships, awards named for a charter member and the first president of Teen HELP, an auxiliary for young people. Ebersole, who was a St. Aloysius High School graduate, died in a 2004 accident. The award was established to honor him and his work with the organization.

Receiving the $500 scholarship was Christopher Hood, a student at Warren Central High School. The recipient of the $250 scholarship was Melanie Smith of Vicksburg High School.

Also at the event, Heidi Burrell was named the United Way Volunteer of the Year, while the Leadership Award was given to Joel Horton and Agency Director of the Year went to Peggy Thomas with the Warren County Children’s Shelter. DiamondJacks Casino was named Corporation of the Year.

Other award winners were:

Terri G. Ulmer, Chairman’s Award.

Linda Holman and Yvonne Ryals, Coordinators of the Year.

Entergy-Grand Gulf, Traveling Leadership Award.

Heidi Burrell, Donor Investment Chair.

Karen Burke, Donor Investment Volunteer of the Year.

Batesville Casket Company, Spirit of Vicksburg Award.

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